Rio de Janeiro: Argentina superstar Lionel Messi scored a stunning freekick but Chile hit back to earn a 1-1 draw in the Copa America on Monday.
Messi’s magical left foot gave dominant Argentina a deserved first half lead but Eduardo Vargas equalized in the second half after Argentina goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez saved veteran midfielder Arturo Vidal’s penalty.
Despite Argentina’s dominance, Messi lamented that “we weren’t calm, we didn’t have control of the ball.”
His coach Lionel Scaloni saw things differently, though. “We deserved to win but in the end we drew. In any case, it’s only the start of a very tough tournament,” said Scaloni.
Before the Group B game started in the Nelson Santos stadium in Rio de Janeiro, there was a light-and-effects tribute to Argentina legend Diego Maradona, who died in November aged 60, although the ground was empty due to coronavirus restrictions.
The first chance fell to Messi on eight minutes as Leandro Paredes picked out Nicolas Tagliafico on the left and the fullback nodded the ball down for his captain, who sent a volley wide.
Minutes later, Giovani Lo Celso crossed from the left but a sliding Lautaro Martinez could only spoon the ball over the bar from inside the six-yard box.
Argentina were in total command and Lo Celso picked out Nicolas Gonzalez to shoot from 20 yards but goalkeeper Claudio Bravo got down well to his right to tip the ball around the post.
From Messi’s corner, Gonzalez headed over the bar and moments later he was released by Lo Celos but shot straight at Bravo.
Argentina got the goal their domination deserved on 33 minutes, and inevitably it was Messi who scored, curling a free-kick from 25 yards out just beyond Bravo’s dive. They should have had a second soon afterwards but teed up by Gonzalo Montiel 10 yards out, Martinez screwed his shot horribly wide.
“I would be worried if the team wasn’t creating chances. The important thing is we are, we’re getting lots of players in the box. And it will go in,” said Scaloni.
Chile started the second half with more intent and Erick Pulgar played Vargas into the area but his shot on the stretch was saved by Martinez. However, Vidal stormed in to try to fire home the rebound and was caught by Tagliafico as he shot.
Referee Wilmar Roldan consulted VAR and then awarded a penalty. Martinez tipped Vidal’s effort onto the crossbar but Vargas was quickest to the ball to head home the equalizer.
Argentina were soon back on the attack but Chile centre-back Gary Medel blocked a volley from Gonzalez, who later headed over from a Messi free-kick.
Twenty minutes from time, Messi created space in the box but Bravo was down well to save his low shot.
Gonzalez’s night to forget would get worse 10 minutes from time when he ran onto a perfect chipped pass from Messi but headed over from just seven yards out when it looked easier to score. It was his last involvement as he was substituted before Bravo took the goalkick.
Argentina kept pushing but Messi headed over the bar in injury time as Chile held on for a point. “This team didn’t want to be beaten, even though they didn’t play well. This group of players are defiant,” said Chile coach Martin Lasarte.
Fine rally by Paraguay
In another Group A game, Paraguay went behind to an early penalty but scored three times in the second half for a 3-1 win over Bolivia, who were reduced to 10 men just before halftime in their Copa America opener on Monday.
Bolivia were without five players who tested positive for COVID-19, including striker Marcelo Martins, who scored seven times in Bolivias last seven games.
(After Monday’s matches)
Paraguay 1 1 0 0 3 1 3
Argentina 1 0 1 0 1 1 1
Chile 1 0 1 0 1 1 1
Uruguay 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Bolivia 1 0 0 1 1 3 0
Brazil 1 1 0 0 3 0 3
Colombia 1 1 0 0 1 0 3
Peru 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Ecuador 1 0 0 1 0 1 0
Venezuela 1 0 0 1 0 3 0